Courtesy: Holly blog - LIFE OF A BLIND GIRL
Honestly; screen readers and the internet were the 2 best
things invented after sliced bread. However, I can put sliced pizza on that
list too! This post is a subject that I wanted to write about for a long, long
time but the forces of life and time have really given me enough of challenges
to deal with. From engaging on social media, advocating accessibility and
creating awareness on assistive technology I have been up the hill so many
times sometimes it just gets me tired. I do have a social life which I try to
balance along all this and lately due to the pandemic I don't see much of that
happening as it was earlier.
Holly and I met on YouTube; she runs a channel mainly
talking about disability and her life. Very interesting as I wanted to know how
a person with a visual impairment/ print disability of the opposite gender goes
about addressing their challenges due to their limitation. I will write more
about that in some other post in the interest of time and the subject of this
post let's understand on "How to be a good disability ally". Views
expressed in this post are mostly by Holly with my additional thoughts.
Ally: Allyship is about lifting each other up, supporting
others and playing your part in creating change. I’m not talking about huge
changes; small changes can sometimes mean the most. There are steps we can all
take to be an ally.
One of the steps that is crucial to moving forward in
creating a world that’s inclusive and accessible for everyone is being a good
ally. We can all be an ally in one way or another. I spend a lot of my time
educating people on disability – both in my day job, as well as on social
I find myself slipping into educational mode when I’m out
and about, when curious strangers ask me questions about my vision impairment.
I know many brilliant disability allies that do not have a disability. They all
have a few things in common: they listen, take note, they use their voice when
needed and they always consider disabled people. They aren’t afraid to tackle
misconceptions or educate others. Their conscious effort doesn’t go unnoticed.
Can we have more of that please?
Here are some ways in which you can be a good disability ally:
1. Treat disabled people the same way you treat everyone
I’d say that this is the first step in being a good
disability ally, and one of the most important things you can do. In order to
achieve the rest, treating us with respect is a given.
There’s no need for you to speak to us any differently to
others. You don’t need to shout at us or speak to us like we’re a child. And
one that bugs me the most: speak to us, rather than the person we’re with. I
can’t tell you how belittled I feel when someone speaks to my friend or family
member, when they can speak to me directly.
If you think a disabled person needs help or assistance,
then ask. Don’t be offended if we say no – we know best.
If a disabled person does take your offer of assistance,
it’s important to ask what they’d like you to do, and how you can help. Don’t
jump in and grab their arm and drag them across the road for example.
We know that these acts of assistance come from a good place
because people genuinely want to help, but think about how it makes us feel.
More often than not, we are more than capable going about
our days independently. However, there are some times when we’re grateful for
some help. Let us make these decisions. We’re not saying no to come across as
rude, we are simply okay doing whatever it is on our own. Disabled people are
independent. Please don’t take that independence away from us.
2. Educate yourself
Take the time to learn about various disabilities. Educate
yourself on the various models of disability. Learn about the societal barriers
we face. Gain a deeper understanding of accessibility and why it truly matters.
There’s a ton of resources out there – from blogs, podcasts,
social media and books written by disabled people.
Don’t stop learning!
Remember it’s not solely down to disabled people to educate
others. There are resources right at your fingertips so take it upon yourself
to learn. Source as much information as you can. If you get stuck, reach out
and ask. However, please remember that we don’t have the time or energy to
educate every individual person. Find the line between searching for the
resources yourself and reaching out.
As a disabled person myself, I’m always learning, always
trying to stay educated and informed, and always trying to do better.
3. Think about the language you use
Language is key. It plays an important part in everything we
do. Just like many other things in our lives, there is preferred terminology
when it comes to disability. If someone asks you to use a specific word or
phrase, be mindful of that. Respect their preferences.
You don’t need to skirt around the edges. Trust me, it makes
for an unpleasant experience for everyone. Don’t be afraid to say the word
“disabled”. Say it with pride, and say it with confidence.
There’s of course terminology you should avoid when talking
about disability as well. For example, using phrases such as ‘wheelchair
bound’, ‘crippled’ or ‘special needs’.
4. Listen to us
Disabled people’s voices can often go unheard or unnoticed.
We regularly feel ignored and misunderstood. By taking the time to listen to
what we have to say, you are giving us a voice.
Don’t jump in and take over. Instead, let us finish what
we’re saying first.
If we’re giving you instructions on how to help us with
something, don’t assume that you can do it your own way.
Remember that disabled people know best – we are the ones
living with our disabilities and chronic illnesses every single day. When you
listen to us, take note of what we’re saying and if you can, act on it.
Never speak over us. Don’t speak for us either.
5. Be a disability advocate
You don’t have to identify as disabled to advocate on areas
such as disability rights and accessibility. You can speak up, share our
content and educate other people.
If a document isn’t accessible, let the sender know. If a
building isn’t accessible, speak up. If there’s a trending disability issue,
use your platforms. If someone says something that’s ableist, correct and
inform them. Don’t stay silent. Don’t be afraid to use your voice.
Listen to us and take our lead.
We don’t expect you to know everything. All we ask is for
you to show your support where you can. We’re stronger together.
6. Amplify our content
There are lots of disabled people using their digital/
social media platforms to educate others and change perceptions. We do this
because we want to share our experiences, raise awareness and help to make the
world more accessible and inclusive for everyone.
Opening yourself up to the world can be scary at times, it
isn’t for everyone. There’s no obligation to do this simply for being a
disabled person. But those of us that use our platforms in this way all have
our own reasons for doing so.
It takes a matter of seconds to retweet a tweet or share a
post, something that we appreciate more than you know. It’s more than a simple
like or share – it’s lifting our voices and it’s showing your support. You’re
actively educating yourself and others. By doing that, you’re making a
7. Think about accessibility in everything you do
Accessibility should be an integral part of your life. From
making documents accessible, asking a business why they don’t have a ramp, to
adding image descriptions to photos of your pets that you’re sharing on social
media, accessibility should be part of both your online and offline presence.
Whether you’re directly benefited by accessibility or not, it should always be
a primary focus. Educate others on accessibility.
You don’t have to have a reason to make your content
accessible, it should be something you always do regardless of the situation.
I see lots of people making a conscious effort to make their
professional content accessible, but their personal content is the opposite.
Accessibility should be part of both your personal and professional lives.
Being a disability ally doesn’t mean that you are an expert.
it means actively listening to us, showing your support and educating others.
We can all do our part to be a good disability ally. I promise you, your
support really does make a difference.
P.S. You can be an ally to any cause not just disability, so the tips in this post have cross functional value. Remember at the end of the day, we are all human, have limitations and are constantly trying to overcome them by seeking support or educating ourselves with new skills.
Start by being a disability ally; visit Point 6 and share this post with your networks! You can also share your thoughts and comments below
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